2019-2020 Season,  The Magic Flute

Dramaturg’s Note for The Magic Flute

“This is the problem with language, and this is what makes silent movies fun, because the connection with them, me or the audience is not with the language. There’s no question of interpretation of what we are saying it’s just about feeling. You create your own story.” 

Michel Hazanavicius


The only difference between opera and silent film is color. 

When I think of my favorite silent films, I think of intense emotions, exaggerated expressions, lavish costumes, grandiose sets, and exotic destinations. The exact same could be said of my favorite operas. The most obvious similarity, however, is also the least tangible. It’s the magic. It’s the sheer drama and scale that whisks you away into a new world of fantasy and adventure, a world where you read the lines in your head and match it to what’s happening in front of you. A world where gestures and expressions that you would never see in real life somehow feel authentic and appropriate. A world of magic that invites you to believe, replacing logic and rules with feeling and play.

The geography of this world has been at the very heart of its concept since the beginning of production. The script references a number of Egyptian gods, but the decision was made early on not to set the play specifically in Egypt. However, the art deco nods in the design of the show cleverly point to famous movie houses of the 1920s, such as Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, the site of the first ever film premiere, or the nearby Steiner Egyptian Theatre in Park City built in 1926 and still used for Sundance premieres today. 

The power of place (or lack thereof) pervades even further, though. “Where am I?” These are the first spoken words of The Magic Flute. It is a question asked often, but never answered. Likewise, the production references a myriad of cultures to create a dazzling kaleidoscope of placelessness. Because he doesn’t know where he is, Tamino is forced to come into his own, as there are no prescribed protocols for him to hide behind. Likewise we, as the heroes of our own journey, must do the same in order to truly understand ourselves. Our trials may not look like Tamino’s. In place of fire and water they may be loss of loved ones or spiritual doubt. In place of silence our trials may be mental illness or unemployment. No matter the journey, stories like the Magic Flute promise us a great reward if we can stay the course. Just like in the classic films, good prevails, evil is vanquished, and the hero is all the better for his struggles. 

It is my pleasure to invite you into a world where winged spirits roam free, where flutes call animals and thunder calls Queens, and where serpents devour men in a single gulp. All of this and more is just behind our curtain, in brilliant technicolor. 

Vielen Dank und Viel Spaß bei der Vorstellung!

by Daniel Mesta, dramaturg

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